by: Dan Tordjman Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A day after Charlotte City Council approved the purchase of Eastland Mall, a potential investor looking to transform the old mall into a new film studio said the site had great potential.
"We can build something in Charlotte that will be here long after we're gone," said Bert Hesse, of Central Avenue Studios.
Hesse is a film producer who has lived in Charlotte for years, and said there's plenty of demand for a major film studio here.
He envisions Eastland turning into a production center for TV and film crews, with a sound stage and office complex for everyone from graphic artists to talent agents. He even hopes to offer a film internship program and work closely with Central Piedmont Community College and other local schools.
Hesse is just one of several investors expected to make a bid for the city's newly acquired property, as soon as the city closes its deal with a group of seven owners who currently control Eastland.
"Up until yesterday, it would be like me trying to buy an apartment complex and going to each one of those tenants to negotiate," said Hesse. "No private company was going to do that."
Charlotte has until the end of August to complete the deal with the Eastland owners, and then will likely wait another 30 days before taking offers.
"I've still got doubts about whether we can pull this off," said City Councilman Andy Dulin.
He voted in favor of the purchase, he said, "to show solidarity with east Charlotte." But Dulin does question whether the city will be able to complete its deal for Eastland within the short deadline it’s under.
Investors, like Hesse, certainly hope the deal gets done.
If everything unfolds the way Hesse envisions, he said "people will be able to recognize Charlotte's skyline from all over the world without them even coming here and then maybe they decide to come here because of film."